Molly de Aguiar
Where in the world are you?
I live in Highland Park, New Jersey, which is a sweet little town where you can walk to the grocery store and post office and bank and toy store, and yet it’s only a 45 minute drive to New York City and an hour drive to Philadelphia.
I write a blog called Charlotte’s Fancy, about ”favorite things, family life and fun projects.”
Briefly describe yourself and what you make
I’m a mom to two girls (Elena, 9, Rosa, 6); a blogger who’s passionate about design, stationery, easy crafts, and all things handmade; and a professional in the field of philanthropy.
I feature easy crafts on Charlotte’s Fancy once a week (on Mondays). I mostly stick to kid crafts because I want my girls to enjoy making things with their hands, but also because I’m a frustrated artist – I can imagine what I want to make better than I can execute it! So, I stick to the simple projects, but I also try to bring a little bit of design aesthetic to it.
I had to learn some graphic design in college (when I thought I wanted to go into advertising), and so I’ve used those skills over the years for lots of different professional and personal (print) projects: annual reports, brochures, newsletters, and lots and lots of party invitations. I know enough to do some fun stuff, but not enough to be a professional designer. I think the graphic design skills help inform the crafts I do, the layout of Charlotte’s Fancy, and the kid parties I’ve put together over the years.
When I am not featuring my own easy crafts, I like to showcase really fabulous handmade artists on Charlotte’s Fancy.
Who or what inspires you?
That list is pretty long, but I think first and foremost, I am a paper junkie. I have a huge box of stationery for thank you notes, birthday cards, Valentines, Christmas cards, etc. From there, it’s only a small leap to wrapping paper, ribbon, colorful pens, tags, twine, rick rack, fabric and everything that goes with packaging pretty gifts.
I am also inspired by colors – especially bright, colorful, cheerful colors. I will never get sick of yellows and aquas and lime greens and pinks and oranges and – well, you get the picture. Most of my crafts tend to be colorful.
When / how did you learn?
Frankly, I should be a lot more talented than I am. My paternal grandmother was an amazing seamstress. My maternal grandmother sewed the most meticulous quilts and also did a lot of needlepoint. I learned not all that long ago that it was my mom who taught my grandmother how to sew quilts and not the other way around, so, it goes without saying that my mom is pretty amazing with a needle and thread too. She does everything by hand. My sewing skills are remedial, at best, although when I young, I dabbled in sewing, needlepoint, embroidery and a little bit of cross stitch.
Here’s what I am pretty good at, though: I can figure out how things are made (ok, how *simple* things are made), and then make my own version, putting my own spin on it.
Why do you 'bother' to make things by hand?
I think there’s a tremendous sense of accomplishment in making things with your own hands – especially when it turns out like you wanted it to, or better. I want my girls to feel that excitement too, and I want them to learn to be confident in their creativity – because no matter what they decide to do for a living, being creative will serve them well.
What is your craft ”philosophy”?
Hm. For me personally, I suppose it’s ”keep it simple.” I don’t venture into difficult territory, because I don’t feel like I have the time or patience to take on big, challenging, crafty projects.
Fondest craft-related memory?
When I was a kid, I had a couple of craft books that I loved. One was a book called Steven Caney’s Kid’s America, and it had all kinds of activities, games and crafts in it that I loved to try out. I remember trying to make my own ink from walnuts (I lived on a farm, and we actually had a walnut tree, but it was the wrong season when I tried this, so the ink didn’t turn out). We also had this crazy 70s craft book called the SUPER BOOK OF THINGS TO MAKE AND DO (the title was in all caps like that), which my sister still has. I don’t remember if I actually made anything from that book, but I remember poring over the pages of it over and over again.
Have you always made 'stuff'?
Yeah, I have. When I was a kid, I dabbled in all kinds of crafts, but I really concentrated my efforts on making newsletters and ’zines – and I was always trying to get my mom to buy subscriptions. My father was a writer and my mother, when I was young, worked for a direct mail firm doing newsletter subscription fulfillment, so I took my cue from them and made my own newsletters.
Periodically, I dream about writing my own ’zine as an adult. I’m enamored with online magazines – I love that they aren’t burdened by the traditional publishing costs and that all you need is an abundance of creativity and a little bit of design skill.
Can you reveal a little about your creative process?
I do a lot of quiet brainstorming – a lot of free association – particularly on my way to and from work. I tend to think and craft in a collage style – I pull bits and pieces of inspiration from a lot of different places (books, blogs, magazines, etc.) and put it all together in one project.
I get really annoyed with myself when I can’t make something that looks so simple. There are crafts in children’s craft books that I have not been able to make! When I made these wooden puppet spoons recently, I repainted the face of the man with the mustache three or four times before I was satisfied with it. Sometimes I just give up – I can think of at least three crafts I tried to do for Charlotte’s Fancy that I had to give up on. I am pretty picky about how I want things to turn out (I think most people are, right?)
Favourite book(s) or craftbook(s)?
For kids, I’m a fan of all of the Usborne ”Make and Do” activity books – there are lots of them, like ”Mermaid Things to Make and Do” and ”Fairy Things to Make an Do” and ”Monster Things to Make and Do.” The illustrations are really adorable and the crafts are fun and easy and creative. I also really like Todd Oldham’s ”Kid Made Modern,” which has excellent ideas and is beautiful to look at.
Do you have a designated craft space? What does it mean to you?
I pretty much do everything at my dining room table – it’s a big table and it’s got the best light in the house for when I want to take photographs of my crafts.
I don’t – I guess Charlotte’s Fancy is my journal, of sorts.
What impact (if any) has the internet had on your craft?
I never intended to do my own crafts on Charlotte’s Fancy, but I think, at some point, I felt the need to create original content, rather than curating other people’s work. I also wanted to challenge myself to set aside time to for creative pursuits – because it’s so easy to get caught up in housework and errands and other chores and not protect the time to be creative. By instituting a regularly scheduled day on Charlotte’s Fancy for crafts, the internet keeps me honest – it forces me to keep my commitment to creativity.
I’ve had a little bit of success getting my crafts featured in other places (One Pretty Thing, The Crafty Crow, Craft Gossip, and recently on CRAFT), which is something so thrilling and that I never would have imagined. So the internet inspires me to keep dreaming up new, interesting projects to make and hopefully continue to get featured on these crafty blogs I admire so much.
I would never characterize myself as a person who makes art and I don’t think I would call myself a true crafter either. The crafts I do are basically the kinds of things lots of moms out there do with their kids. Really, I’m just trying to find creative outlets, and making crafts for Charlotte’s Fancy is one of them. I am constantly amazed by all the real crafters out there who make such unique and beautifully crafted items.
If you could make any project without limits to cost, materials or even skill, what would it be?
Well, this isn’t particularly ambitious, but I wish I could convince myself to put the time and effort into learning how to sew well. I would love to be able to sew anything I wanted – from kids’ clothes to quilts to elaborate costumes. Can you just wave a magic wand over me and make that happen, please?
Instead, I make my nine year old take sewing lessons and live vicariously through her. (But she’ll thank me later).
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